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Joint effort to promote local agro-producers | 31 August 2020

Joint effort to promote local agro-producers

The Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and Enterprise Seychelles Agency (Esa), in partnership with Hilton Labriz Gastrolounge, hosted its first networking event with the aim of promoting local agricultural producers.

The event, which grouped together a small group of local producers who are dedicatedly working to provide the market with the freshest produce and value-added products, is the first of many SCCI networking events post Covid-19, organised to provide local producers with opportunities to showcase their products and to market and sell to other businesses in order to boost their sales.

Present and displaying an array of products were targeted participants, all producers of local agricultural products including local juices, coconut milk, the traditional curry powder ‘masala’ and spices as well as local fish products.

Chairperson of SCCI, Oliver Bastienne, highlighted the importance of local producers in addressing food security challenges, as has become evident in recent times, where imports and the shipping industry have been severely disrupted, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In the other industries, we are all being impacted and we are seeing the impact on the supply side due to an already global supply disruption and limited availability of foreign exchange. But alongside this, we need to ensure that we have one eye on our food security agenda. A march towards more self-sufficiency on our food supply chain is no longer important, but critical,” Mr Bastienne said, explaining the rationale behind the event.

“It is important to recognise and give value to the work of our local producers compared to imported products and moreover to support them financially through these struggling times so that they sustain the population with enough food supplies. Let us start thinking about how we can promote food security in our homes, in our communities and how we can bring it to our schools. It is our little contribution which we can do towards the food security agenda,” Mr Bastienne added.

Producers also networked among themselves, sharing their experiences, challenges and achievements during these difficult times.

Keryl Bristol of Tropical Juices launched her venture in 2017 with a vision to make available healthier juice options on the local market. Ms Bristol, who started off by making small batches of juice from a variety of local fruits, first started selling her product by the cup on Beau Vallon beach, before opting to formalise her business and expand into bottling and distributing. All her juices are homemade and bottled in her specialised, separate kitchen, before being labelled for distribution at retail outlets.

Among the challenges Ms Bristol is faced with as a producer is inavailability of raw materials, fruits, she says.

“When I first started out, I didn’t have as much trouble finding fruits to make the juice. I like to buy from other small farms, and I don’t mind buying a small batch here and another small batch from the other, but recently, demand for local fruits has increased significantly, so sometimes, fruit can be hard to come by,” Ms Bristol explained.

Michael Jeannevole of MJ’s is one producer who always tries to stay one step ahead and jump at every opportunity. Mr Jeannevole started his enterprise in 2004 where his main product was ‘masala’. Over the years, as competition was steadily increasing, he decided to diversify into other dry products.

“I remember it was the economic crisis of 2008 and due to the lack of foreign exchange, import was disrupted and there were shortages of most products. At the time there was no icing sugar and someone advised me to make some so I did. We ended up supplying Skychef and the Plantation Club hotel with icing sugar at the time, until the crisis subsided and the market collapsed again, although I still distribute and manufacture for my business contacts,” Mr Jeannevole explained.

Faced with a similar shortage of self-raising flour during the Covid-19 pandemic and Seychelles’ brief period of lockdown, Mr Jeannevole once again jumped to the drawing board, researching recipes together with his daughter Karen Jean Baptiste, before making his first batch and handing them out to bakeries and clients as samples. Needless to say, the product, cheekily named ‘Lockdown 2020 self-raising flour’ has indeed been a success on the local market.

The soiree was attended by chief executive of ESA Angelique Appoo, principal secretary for Agriculture Antoine Marie Moustache and chairman of the Local Food Producers Association Nelson Renaud.

Mozaik Band was also present to spice up the ambience.

The accompanying photos show some highlights of the networking event.

 

Laura Pillay

Photos: Joena Meme

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